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Research suggests that immune response protects against brain tumor development

In their quest to determine whether immune system surveillance guards against brain tumor development, researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center have found that allergies and asthma that stimulate inflammation may be protective, but use of antihistamines to control the inflammation could eliminate that protection.

In this study, reported at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the researchers also associated chicken pox infection with a significantly reduced risk of developing brain tumors.

The researchers say the findings suggest that a small amount of inflammation in the brain may rev up the immune system enough to protect against brain tumor development. But they stress that no one should give up antihistamines or shun use of a chicken pox vaccine because of this study.

"Brain tumors are exceedingly rare, and many, many people use antihistamines, so we certainly are not suggesting a direct connection between the two, or between chicken pox and tumors," says the study's lead author, Melissa Bondy, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Epidemiology. "What this study may do is help us begin to understand if the immune system plays a role in development of different kinds of brain tumors."

"Our long-term goal is to look at genes that may be increasing or reducing risk of developing these tumors, and then to assess whether some individuals might be genetically susceptible," says Michael E. Scheurer, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Epidemiology. As the study's first author, Scheurer will present the findings at the conference and also in a media briefing Tuesday, April 4 at 1 p.m.

In this study, Scheurer and Bondy combined data from their large Harris County, Texas, epidemiological study of brain tumor patients with information collected on patients in the San Francisco area by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco. Together,
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2-Apr-2006


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